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Top Story in The Eagle: CRT Forum

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Texas A&M Professors Tackle Questions on Critical Race Theory, racism

Texas A&M sociology professors Troy Harden and Joe Feagin fielded questions Saturday afternoon during a forum about Critical Race Theory and systemic racism in the United States and the local community.

The forum, which was hosted via Zoom by the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley, covered topics from Critical Race Theory and teaching history in schools to discrimination in the legal system and the question of changing how cities fund police departments. At one point, nearly 90 people were on the call.

“Naturally, a discussion about racism can be very divisive, but I think you will all agree that such discussions are very important,” moderator Pam Johnson, president of the Brazos Unitarian Universalist Church board and co-chair of the Confronting Our Racism Group, said to open the forum. “CORG’s goal is to start conversations and to educate ourselves about systemic racism and the ways racism impacts individuals and our communities.” Feagin said when people attack Critical Race Theory, they are attacking the teaching of the country’s accurate history, which is rooted in racism and slavery. He and Harden both said they do not know of any K-12 school environment or undergraduate university program using Critical Race Theory. Harden said he has only seen it in graduate programs and literature. “CRT is not the problem here,” Harden said. “The real problem are the conditions that were created that cause a need for a response such as CRT. What we’re talking about is the 400 years of oppression, of discrimination against people of color in this country, targeting women in this country, targeting other groups that haven’t been a part of the dominant discourse.” Critical Race Theory, he said, becomes the theoretical and academic response asking why certain issues are continuously seen even after the end of slavery and discriminatory laws. “There is a need to center history and the importance of truth in our education environment, so perhaps that is what’s under attack here,” Harden said. Chuck Fleeger, executive director of the Amber Alert Network Brazos Valley and retired College Station assistant police chief, said he attended the forum to educate himself about Critical Race Theory and what it means. “That was my number one goal ... to learn because I think if anything is going to change, we have to have conversations, and we have to have relationships with those in our community, and those conversations have to be well-informed conversations,” he said. Some viewpoints make Critical Race Theory sound like something that will take over and brainwash future generations, but it is taking an honest look at history and putting it into perspective, he said. Support Local Journalism Your subscription makes our reporting possible. Subscribe: 6mos. only $1.08 “We can’t go back and change that, but we can use that history to inform what we do moving forward,” he said.

Multiple times during the forum, Feagin and Harden said there are elements of the local community and the United States’ history that needs to be unpacked in order to make progress. Fleeger said he felt he left the forum more informed, acknowledging he still has more to learn, and wants to see more conversations happen to continue moving the dialogue. “That’s when change will happen is when you can sit there and have a conversation with somebody,” he said. “You may not agree with them about every single thing — all the details — but you agree that on what the outcome that you both desire is that we live in a better community, that everybody is treated fairly, that everyone is treated with decency and respect that you would want for you or your family. I think that’s a good starting point to build off of. It definitely doesn’t need to stop today. We can’t sit there and pat ourselves on the back and say we’re done, check that box.” Tre Watson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter BCS, said he also hopes there can be more conversations in the future that include people who might not be as likeminded as those attending the forum. Ultimately, he said, he wants that discussion to lead to change. One topic of the forum that Watson did not like hearing was that some black professionals, namely Texas A&M faculty members, are uncomfortable sending their children to College Station and, in some cases, Bryan schools. Feagin said in his 17 years at Texas A&M, he had known black faculty members who were not comfortable enrolling their students in the local school districts, and some chose to leave the university. As the conversations continue, Watson said, “Hopefully we will see more change and not just people talking about it.” He encouraged people to reach out to people they are comfortable having difficult conversations with and talk about what needs to happen to create that change. Watson said he would like to see the school districts clarify for the community what is being taught in schools and clear up misinformation that they are using Critical Race Theory and that teaching accurate history will teach white children to hate themselves. One question posed during the two-hour forum was how school districts can teach accurate histories when the textbooks school boards are required to approve do not present it accurately.

“The hope is that teachers aren’t intimidated by the language of the state law and will continue to teach accurate history in the state, as well as teach critical thinking skills,” Harden said. Feagin said it is important for school boards to reflect the community’s demographics and said administrators and school board members of both Bryan and College Station school districts need to educate themselves and create spaces to have candid discussions about race and discrimination in the schools.


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